By Srian Obeyesekere
Middle order batsman Saud Shakeel struck a career best unbeaten 208 as Pakistan piled up 461 with its middle order and tail putting the Sri Lankan attack to the sword as the tourists took a box seat 151-run first innings lead which the hosts had cut down to 135 responding with 14 for no loss with Nishan Madushka on 8 and Dimuth Karunaratne 6 at stumps on the third day of the first Test match at the Galle International Stadium as Dimuth Karunaratne and company for once found a usually favourable Galle track pointing daggers at them.
Indeed, the Lankans would be smarting at the manner in which found Karunaratne’s charges looking down the barrel from a once strong position of having Pakistan on the hop on 101 for 5 to Babar Azam’s descending from behind to dictating terms with the sixth-wicket pair of Shekeel and Agha Salman, who swung the game their way yesterday extend their overnight 120-run partnership by a further 51 runs. The partnership was broken by Ramesh Mendis who had him stumped by Sadeera Samarawickrama. Salman’s 113-ball knock containing 9 boundaries and a six was followed by Shakeel’s run orgy as the 27-year old left hander went on to pummel the Lankan attack enriching his magical 200 milestone consuming 361 balls with a further 14 boundaries to the 5 the previous day when he hauled his side out of trouble to riding high finishing unconquered. It was his second test century in his sixth appearance fronted by a run aggregate of 580 with a previous highest of 125 not out with 5 half centuries.
The most productive partnership of the day was the 94 Shakeel forged with Naseem Shah whose contribution was only 10 off 12 with a boundary and six before Mendis bowled him as the right-arm off spinner ended with a 5-wicket haul for 136 off a marathon 42.2 overs accounting for 4 of the 5 wickets that fell today with pacer Vishwa Fernando accounting for the other.
Sri Lanka 312 (95.2 Overs)
(Dhananjaya de Silva 122, Angelo Mathews 64, Sadeera Samarawickrama 36, Dimuth Karunaratne 29, Vishwa Fernando not out 21, Abrar Ahmed 3/68, Shaheen Shah Afridi 3/86, Naseem Shah 3/90, Agha Salman 1/18)
And 14/0 (3.4 Overs) (Nishan Madushka n.o. 8, Dimuth Karunaratne n.o. 6)
Pakistan 221/5 overnight, 461 (121.2 Overs)
(Saud Shakeel n.o. 208, Agha Salman 83, Noman Ali 25, Abrar Ahmed 10, Shan Masood 39, Sarfaraz Ahmed 17, Babar Azam 13, Ramesh Mendis 5/136 42.2, Prabath Jayasuriya 3/145 35, Vishwa Fernando 1/69, Kasun Rajitha 1/77)